Lentorre Lodge deep inside an escarpment teeming with wildlife

Saturday May 08 2021
A Vereaux's eagle owl on watch at Olkirimatian.

A Vereaux's eagle owl on watch at Olkirimatian. PHOTO | RUPI MANGAT


This is lion king country.

The plains below are infinite and the sky an endless blue at Lentorre, a sultry hideout in the Nguruman Escarpment, forming the western wall of the Rift Valley.

The five-hour drive from Nairobi at sunrise has us at the foot of the famed trona-treasured Lake Magadi gate to gape at the massive flocks of Lesser flamingos feeding in ankle-deep water. It’s hot, but the pretty pink birds aren’t bothered by the heat as is the Maasai boy in red shuka watching over his goats.

A lone flamingo cuts a stark picture with the Lake Magadi salt factory as a backdrop. The causeway opens to the grass plains strewn with volcanic rocks, resilient trees and termite clay castles to arrive at Lentorre the little lodge on the hill that’s a volcanic outcrop called Ol Donyo Sampu on Nguruman.

We reach our haven at lunch time.

Sacred Mt Shompole


What follows is a feast for the senses looking over the plains and the cliffs. Every meal is a delight.

The afternoon is too hot to venture out of the shade and a perfect excuse to float around in the plunge pool.

I lazily survey the mini-lookalike Table Mountain in Mt Shompole shimmering in the horizon. It’s where the Nguruman escarpment touches the shores of Lake Natron in Tanzania, the other favourite place the pretty pink birds lay their eggs. Shompole is the sacred mountain of the Maasai, the volcanic ash-spewing Lengai, again in Tanzania.

A baboon family next to a water pan near Lentorre Lodge in Olkirimatian conservancy.

A baboon family next to a water pan near Lentorre Lodge in Olkirimatian conservancy. PHOOT | RUPI MANGAT

Wildlife monitoring teams from Lale’enok Resource Centre in Olkirimatian Group Ranch speak of 400 elephants that wander in from the Loita Hills after an absence of 30 years and abundance of lions as the Olkirimatian and Shompole group ranches are rebuilding their prides and taking ownership of their wildlife like the elephants.

At dawn while one lot hikes up Ol Donyo Sampu, we drive down to the plains in search of the wild. Maasai giraffes pasted against Nguruman add to a dramatic backdrop and a herd of impala leap across the road while pastel-coloured Abyssinian bee-eaters flit around.

A smouldering sun’s just tipped over the horizon. Suddenly the silence is broken with a piercing rant of a pale-chanting goshawk perched on a thorn tree.

After a leisurely dinner under a star-studded sky, the excitement of spending the night in the underground hide is overbearing. We marvel at lions, leopards, elephants, civets, striped hyenas, owls and more during the night drinking at the waterhole, unaware they are being watched by humans so close at eye-level. The cameras are superb. Our eyes are glued to the waterhole.

“It rained last night and other nights. There is water everywhere for the animals,” Kelempu, our guide says.

We troop back to our palatial suites only to hear the distant roar of the lion.

From game drives both day and night to the lakes to walking with baboons, trailing lions, birding, hiking the escarpment to swimming in the Ewaso Ngiro fed by crystal clear springs from the South Loita and Nguruman escarpments, there’s plenty to do.

Plan on a few days to explore this magnificent part of the country.

The valley floor is 2,900ft above sea level, while the escarpment crest is 7,500ft.

In a flash, the raptor lifts off in pursuit of something that wings past us. It’s an owl. The goshawk is joined by two others and attack the lone Verreaux’s eagle owl that’s thrice the size, diving with talons outstretched onto the owl’s back.

It’s aerial combat with the army of three chasing the owl off their territory.

The ‘lion team’ drives past to monitor the cats and promise to call while we return to breakfast. But it seems like the lions are being elusive for they don’t show.

An hour passes. Night is time for the White-tail mongoose.

Lentorre is 140 km from Nairobi, past Olorgesailie Prehistoric Site — a good place to stop and discover the greatest tool manufacturing factory from a million years ago.